Well, I do agree very much with Paquita's original thoughts on The Contract from 2002 (there's a hyperlink in Gisele/Violin Concerto post).
Like Paquita I also saw Contract first time in '02 - this time around I saw the same, opening cast with Martine Lamy and Gillaume Cote.
I think the same qualities I liked in the production that time I liked again - the sense of true artistic collaboration where all the parts sort of had equal importance (very much like rethought concept of gesamtkunstwerk, or fusion of art forms);Some of these elements however, stood out for me personaly- lighting design of Kevin Lamotte and set design by Michael Levine. I liked the simple monochromatic beauty of that bare and symmetrical 'school gymnasium' and I found the crisp, white light was very appropriate to depict the simple, stark lifestyle rules and patriarchal hierarchy (I think- mother was also not a pushover) in the small community; actually I didn't notice that thoughtful play with light until the appearance of Lamy's character of healer Eva. The warm, buff spot light is used exclusively on her throughout the work, and her costume was also in warm, beige/apricot reassuring color, so it seemed like she radiates positivism and calm.
The beginning of ballet is so enjoyable and really flawless- the first part when there's a 'school play Pied Piper within play' I just love! I adore performances by the students of NBS and I love the visual impact that colorful little piece has to set off the entire ballet. THe very concept of having all dancers on the stage all the time was very interesting choreographically; however I'm not sure about the dramaturgical justification for certain scenes. For example, after that mysterious breakout was resolved by the healer Eva, all the members of the community go to sleep right there in the separated part of the school gymnasium. Why they don't go to their homes is unclear- I kept thinking weather they belong to some religious cult, which is cool if that's their lifestyle, or there was some parrallel natural catastrophe going on and they had to be evacuated? But we don't get any indications in the libretto and to me such details were a little bit distracting from the actual main scenario, I have to say. And few more things bugged me in that sense. I'm not too thrilled with Sirman's libretto actually. There are some illogical places, for example what is that actual contract between Eva and the community? I mean I can guess she gave them a lot and in return they had to like her, but how do I know that she wasn't supposed to just get paid and go for a vacation? And ok she got in trouble for getting intimate with a wrong guy, but than I don't know what was her particular connection to the children- I mean she did cure most young members of the community, but I don't remember her interacting with the children who appear in the beginning as actors in the 'Pied Piper school play'- how can I understand her character who just takes the kids and take off with them (in the Pied Piper costume, as Paquita mentioned)? This way she comes across as some incarnation of Carabose, going around and snatching people's children when they don't like her.
Nevertheless, choreographically the constant presence of the entire ensemble on stage is used in a good way - I personally really liked all the group dances. I do sometimes find it hard to enjoy Kudelka's over explanatory and too literal gesturing movement style - here in the Contract the 'hart gesturing' movement for Eva (as well as, say, 'cradling baby' or 'harvesting' movements in Four Seasons), were a little bit over the top. I just think there are more subtle choreographic means available. Having said that, this time around I really got a better sense from the pas de deux of Eva and Will characters. There was a buildup where I really could better understand that two of them got curious and interested in each other's inner personas on a human level so to say, and than slowly things 'just happened' rather than just seeing them suddenly ripping the clothes off. (Disclaimer here: I honestly am not sure if something was changed in choreography, or it was just me being more in tune with the performance this time. Did anyone have a similar feeling?)
Anyway, I liked a lot of things and I believe this ballet is an interesting work that could be in my oppinion easily fine tuned in details. Of course, all the performances for me were excellent- I think Lamy was brilliant, so were Cote and Julie Hay as Mother, or Rebecca Rimsay as Daughter and the rest of the ensemble really danced with beautiful synergy.
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